From the Detroit Auto Show: It’s a Car, It’s a Boat, It’s… the Future

vehicle design concept

When Lucy Lee, a student at the College for Creative Studies (CSS) in Detroit, Michigan, was tasked with designing an environmentally sustainable vehicle of the future, she produced something that utilized the city’s most abundant resource ー water. The CCS students were presenting at the Plastics News Automotive conference held in conjunction with and during the North American Auto Show (NAAIS) in Detroit MI.


The American Chemistry Council sponsored the vehicle design course and the teacher who assigned this project encouraged Lee to think outside the box, using plastics and polymer composites to produce a car that could benefit a 2035 Detroit. Her vehicle design ー an amphibious, solar powered vehicle ーincluded all the elements of success the assignment expected. It incorporated lightweight, affordable plastics to help take the vehicle from land to sea by maintaining buoyancy and preventing rust build up.

The freedom to travel outside the boundaries of the road would be enticing when you contemplate your daily commute. A car with transitional capabilities could avoid traffic and road congestion and offer faster, more direct routes through waterways.

Plastics make up the vehicle’s body, but its power would come from a solar panel and back-up battery, making it naturally sustainable. The solar panel (see similar lightweighting concept in production now) could be amplified by both direct sunlight and its reflection off the water, helping provide a long range of battery life.

vehicle design concept

As Lee pointed out in her presentation of the design, cars of the future must utilize materials that will help navigate through the environment — all while protecting it. By incorporating Detroit’s culture into the project, the renewable, lightweight vehicle design was able to float above the rest.